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environment in ocean research and
coastal management. The rate of environmental change is unprecedented, and is
aggravated by the fact that very few areas
of the ocean remain pristine, unaffected
by multiple anthropogenic interferences
such as greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication, fishing, habitat destruction,
hypoxia, pollution, and species introductions (Halpern et al., 2008).
Forecasting ocean science priorities
is not an easy task and is never perfect,
perhaps because it is based on previous
knowledge and short-term needs in
marine science, or possibly because it
assumes the continuation and extrapolation of existing trends. As a result,
some potential major discoveries will
be missed and some future trends will
not be predicted. This negative outcome
is not easily avoided as it is extremely
difficult to forecast new discoveries,
breakthrough ideas, or great insights that
will change paradigms in ocean sciences
(Seibold, 1999). It is also important to
stress the strong influence of research
councils and funding agencies in the
selection of scientific priorities. It is
natural to expect great advances in a
research area they decide to support and
fund, which could be regarded as a good
example of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Nevertheless, successful science planning
should take into account both steady
acquisition of knowledge (evolution)
and major scientific breakthroughs
(revolutions). There are no infallible

methodologies for anticipating the
future; there are only schemes to
reduce the uncertainty (Schwartz, 1996;
Gunderson and Folke, 2003; Sutherland
and Woodroof, 2009). As mentioned
previously, the most common schemes
consist of extrapolating current scenarios
into the future, assuming that the present
simulation conditions will remain in a
steady state. It follows that the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior.
However, this approach will probably
fail to forecast nonlinear changes in
the course of science and research that
quite often are the most important ones.
An alternative scheme is to follow a
disciplinary approach, which necessarily
restricts the scope of our projections to
single topics (Sutherland and Woodroof,
2009). A third approach, more risky and
uncertain, is to incorporate nonlinear
events into the projections and then
analyze contingent scenarios to assist
long-range planning (Schwartz, 1996;
Gunderson and Folke, 2003).
The present discussion has two objectives. The first is to review the main
actions and achievements in marine
research that have crafted the present
personality of the IOC’s Ocean Science
Section. Second, it attempts to look into
the future using the past as a source
of information in order to formulate
the main drivers for ocean research,
suggest some examples of topics that
are in need of urgent attention, discuss
possible technological developments,

Luis Valdés (jl.valdes@unesco.org) is Head, Ocean Sciences Section, Intergovernmental
Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Paris, France. Luciano Fonseca is Program
Specialist, Ocean Sciences Section, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of
UNESCO, Paris, France. Kathy Tedesco is Project Director, International Ocean Carbon
Coordination Project (IOCCP), Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of
UNESCO, Paris, France.

162

Oceanography

Vol.23, No.3

and emphasize the importance of scientific networking as an essential strategy
for achieving ambitious goals. IOC‘s
fiftieth anniversary is an appropriate
moment for this assessment and review,
which is in complete accordance with the
International Council for Science (ICSU)
visioning process (Reid et al., 2009)
as well as recently published marine
science plans (JSOST, 2007; ICES, 2009;
UK Marine Science Co-ordination
Committee, 2010).

A GLANCE AT PAST IOC
SCIENTIFIC ACHIEVEMENTS
Since it was founded, coordination of
activities related to scientific understanding and practices has evolved
at IOC. For instance, oceanographic
research has expanded from individual
initiatives to international networks,
which not only has changed our
approach to addressing global ecological
questions but also has opened new
opportunities for interdisciplinary
research, for creating distributed facilities, and for transferring knowledge and
technologies. IOC has contributed to
advances in ocean science by catalyzing,
coordinating, and communicating
marine scientific research through
participation in research and coordination of scientific programs on targeted
themes as well as scientific networking
though the sponsorship of global
research programs. IOC’s history of
cooperation includes leading UN interagency groups and also working with
other relevant international organizations. In terms of capacity building,
technology transfer, and outreach, IOC
has published the results of its programs
in both scientific journals and in literature for the general public and decision